Technique Records owner Mikey Ramirez doesn't mince words when he describes his shop's efforts to adapt its business model in response to the pandemic. Ramirez says that ever since he was forced to close his recently expanded shop, it has been like "putting a Band-Aid on a disembowelment.”
Soon after the March 17 closure, the Upper Eastside record store opened an online shop and began offering curbside pickup. By the following month, Technique was partnering with downtown's Niu Kitchen for a curated vinyl-and-wine pairing program. Those measures have "kept us alive," Ramirez says. But like most small businesses around the U.S., he admits the shop has racked up thousands of dollars in debt over the past three months, including some from the first round of federal loans. Adding to the impact was the postponement of April's Record Store Day, which is comparable to Black Friday for record shops and last year accounted for nearly 25 percent of total U.S. vinyl album sales.
Ramirez had planned to reopen on June 1, with strict social-distancing measures. But he pushed back the date in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. "There are issues that need to be addressed globally and it feels inappropriate to think about anything else at this time," he announced on Technique's social-media feeds.
Even when he spoke with New Times by phone days earlier, it was clear Ramirez was having trouble mustering enthusiasm for Technique's return amid the upheaval.
“I’m gonna be totally honest with you," he said. "Given everything that’s going on at the moment — globally and even within our own country — it’s kind of hard for me to even get excited about reopening right now, just because I think we have bigger problems.”
On Friday, June 5, Ramirez finally opened his doors, even as he encouraged his clientele to focus on the national issues. On checkout, customers are invited to add a contribution to social-justice organizations that the shop will match dollar for dollar. Initial beneficiaries include Dream Defenders, the Community Justice Project, and the George Floyd Memorial Fund. "More will come as we raise and match funds in the days, weeks, months to come," Ramirez promised.
Along with raising money for the cause, Ramirez says his top priority is "creating a low-stress environment where everyone is welcome and everyone is safe." To that end, the store has instituted strict social-distancing measures. For now, the store allows five customers inside at a time, with the option to reserve one-hour blocks via Technique's website. The shop books three appointments per hour, leaving room for two walk-ins. Customers are required to wear masks and gloves; Technique provides the latter.
Ramirez knows all too well the importance of adhering to the safety measures. His younger brother was hospitalized for ten days in New Orleans after contracting COVID-19.
"This is just stuff," says Ramirez of the records that line Technique walls. "This is commerce. You can't replace that with a human life. So my concern is going to be more toward the area of safety and the conditions and the comfort levels of my customers than making money." He emphasizes that the store may tweak its approach as conditions warrant and customers ease back into in-store browsing.
"My shop is known as a digging spot," he says. "It’s not a mail-order place. Save that for Amazon. I have no interest in doing that. What I think people like about my shop is that there’s an influx of records coming in every day, all different types, and the curation’s very good and very organized. I take a lot of pride in that and so does my crew, so it’s about being able to adjust to how things are going to be moving forward."
Technique Records. 880 NE 79th St., Miami; 786-717-6622; techniquerecords.com.